CLEVELAND • Once in complete control of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals, the shell-shocked Golden State Warriors are suddenly flirting with disaster after being forced to a decisive Game 7 on Sunday.
The usually sharp-shooting Warriors were a pale imitation of the record-setting squad from the regular season in a 101-115 loss on Thursday to a Cleveland Cavaliers team that look determined to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
After squandering two straight chances to close out the championship series, Warriors guard Klay Thompson said that they need to play Game 7 with a chip on their collective shoulders.
"We feel like we could have closed it out a long time ago, but here we are," he said. "So we're going to play angry because we know if we play with that emotion and we channel it the right way, we're a really, really good team."
Everything came to a head late in the fourth quarter when the usually stoic Stephen Curry was ejected from the game with the first technical foul of his career, for cursing at the official and throwing his mouthpiece towards the fans.
Said the league's reigning Most Valuable Player, who apologised to the fans: "It was obviously frustrating fouling out in the fourth quarter of a clinching game and not being out there with my team-mates.
"So it got the best of me, but I'll be all right for the next game."
The officiating also infuriated Curry's wife Ayesha, who insinuated that the Finals were "rigged" for money in a tweet which was deleted minutes after it was put up.
FINDING THE RIGHT MOTIVATION
We could have closed it out a long time ago. So we're going to play angry because we know if... we channel it the right way, we're a really, really good team.
KLAY THOMPSON, Warriors guard, on how to recover from two successive wire-to-wire losses against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"I've lost all respect, sorry this is all rigged for money, or ratings I'm not sure which. I won't be silent," she tweeted.
The Warriors' defensive specialist Draymond Green returned after a one-game ban but managed just eight points on a night when his team, the highest scorers in the NBA, shot a mere 40.2 per cent from the field.
The Warriors were without injured starting centre Andrew Bogut, who is out for the series. Golden State coach Steve Kerr was hoping his team could compensate for Bogut's absence, but the Cavaliers exploited mismatches from the opening minute.
"We expected to win the NBA championship coming into the season. It's either win the whole thing or bust for us," said Thompson.
"I mean, it's no fun getting second place. So it would be a great season, but at the same time to us, the players, we're so competitive, we'd feel like we failed."
REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES